Europe’s defence industry has had a strong influence in the development of the European Union’s new defence strategy, according to a report by a Belgian peace organisation published on 17 October.
“The European Defence Action Plan was closely modelled on proposals made by the industry,” said the report by campaign group Vredesactie (Peace Action).
During the preparatory meetings, Europe’s “arms industry has had a heavy footprint on the negotiations”, it says, while civil society, the academic world, and the European Parliament, were nearly absent.
The European Defence Action Plan, which includes a European Defence Fund which would pump millions of EU taxpayers’ euros into the production of weapons, was proposed in November 2016.
At its presentation European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said more EU cooperation on defence was needed to “guarantee our collective security”.
“If Europe does not take care of its own security, nobody else will do it for us. A strong, competitive and innovative defence industrial base is what will give us strategic autonomy,” said Juncker.
But in a report on Oct 17, 2017, Vredesactie said the “initiative for the European strategy has been outsourced to the industry.”
“Rather than a reflection of what security means and how to ensure it, the European strategy is dominated by developing and selling new capabilities. Supporting the defence industry has become a goal in itself,” it said.
The report is based in part on newly-available information made public thanks to access to documents requests.
For example, the group uncovered minutes of a 2015 meeting of the so-called Group of Personalities, which was a working group set up by the European Commission, that laid the foundation for the European Defence Action Plan.
Goal is ‘to overcome resistance’
At the meeting, an EU commission civil servant said that the goal of the group’s report was to “overcome resistance towards a defence research programme”.
Membership of the Group of Personalities (GoP) was heavily skewed towards the defence industry.
“There were barely any independent voices represented in the GoP, let alone any critical voices such as peace groups or human rights organisations,” the report said.
It added that the only member of the European Parliament that participated, centre-right German Michael Gahler, “is known for his pro-military views” and a board member a defence lobby organisation.
The process is reminiscent of a 2005 working group that dealt with the future of the automotive industry, CARS21, which also had a strong over-representation of car industry supporters.
The report also noted how a defence industry lobby group in 2016 managed to convince then Dutch defence minister, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, to “support” their concerns on intellectual property rights of projects funded under the EU programmes.